Multimode IR/RF Surrogate Seeker

Navy SBIR 23.2 - Topic N232-088
NAVAIR - Naval Air Systems Command
Pre-release 4/19/23   Opens to accept proposals 5/17/23   Closes 6/14/23 12:00pm ET

N232-088 TITLE: Multimode IR/RF Surrogate Seeker

OUSD (R&E) CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Integrated Sensing and Cyber

The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.

OBJECTIVE: Design, develop, and demonstrate a prototype multimode seeker operating as a passive RF (Radio Frequency) and passive IR (Infrared) seeker for evaluating aircraft and countermeasure performance.

DESCRIPTION: The U.S. Navy routinely evaluates the ability of sensors to acquire and track aircraft platforms and countermeasures. IR seekers have long been the preferred method of homing in the short-range class of weapons, while RF has remained the preferred method for medium-to- long-range weapons. Dual-mode guidance, a guidance structure using both IR and RF employed across these ranges, offer improved resistance to countermeasures and counter-measuring tactics.

Passive techniques are of particular interest for homing weapons systems because of the difficulty a targeted platform has in detecting and reacting to the weapon. Traditionally missile seekers have only operated in either the RF or IR domains and on separate platforms. Each has strengths and weaknesses. While RF has superior range because IR is attenuated by the atmosphere, IR has superior angular resolution because of its shorter wavelength. This SBIR topic seeks to develop a prototype, dual-mode surrogate seeker, having both a passive RF sensor and a passive imaging IR sensor, for field test evaluation purposes. The RF sensor should operate in either the Ka or Ku band, while the IR imager should operate in the mid-wave IR (MWIR) band:

(a) Ka band: 26.5–40 GHz,

(b) Ku band: 12–18 GHz, and

(c) MWIR: 3–5 µm.

Passive RF is a class of radar that detects and tracks a target based on the target’s own emissions, such as communications and Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) or reflections from non-cooperative sources such as commercial broadcast and communication signals. Both types of signals are of interest for a passive RF homing weapon. A target’s own emissions are a fingerprint or unique discriminator between air platforms such as a Navy E-2 Hawkeye and a Marine MV-22 that a weapon system can identify using a database lookup table. In this way, a weapons system launched from a great distance can identify the correct target. Reflective signal in combination with emissions are important as well, providing geolocation information.

Many different IR imaging algorithms exist and employ five general methods or combination of methods which are, region-based, model-based, feature-based, filtering-based, and active contour-based. The most common tracking schemes used in weapons systems combine feature and filtering methods. The feature method extracts key features from the initial frame such as an edge or a corner, while filtering establishes a target’s condition from one frame to the next, such as position, speed, rotation or scale. The other methods require some a priori knowledge of the target and become more cumbersome because of the many approach angles of a targeted platform.

The two sensors provide a powerful combination that allows for target identification and geolocation, leveraging the best information each sensor.

Tracking algorithms should include schemes such as:

(a) tracking using only one sensor (either RF or IR) providing the best information,

(b) cooperative tracking, using information from both IR and the RF channels to improve target geolocation,

(c) clutter rejection: a hardened track using both IR and RF information to identify a target in a cluttered environment, and

(d) the ability to differentiate between two emitting targets.

While this topic does call for sensors operating in specific bands, the overall architecture should be open, with the end prototype having the ability to swap-in and out or add additional sensors.

Work produced in Phase II may become classified. Note: The prospective contractor(s) must be U.S. owned and operated with no foreign influence as defined by DoD 5220.22-M, National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual, unless acceptable mitigating procedures can and have been implemented and approved by the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA) formerly Defense Security Service (DSS). The selected contractor must be able to acquire and maintain a secret level facility and Personnel Security Clearances. This will allow contractor personnel to perform on advanced phases of this project as set forth by DCSA and NAVAIR in order to gain access to classified information pertaining to the national defense of the United States and its allies; this will be an inherent requirement. The selected company will be required to safeguard classified material IAW DoD 5220.22-M during the advanced phases of this contract.

PHASE I: Design a concept for a dual-mode surrogate seeker having both a passive RF sensor and an imaging IR sensor and demonstrate feasibility. Design concept should include required hardware, database/look up tables and types of tracking algorithms. Identifying risk and the mitigation of those risks are key. Additionally, Phase I must include limited lab testing and demonstrations of technologies to determine the most appropriate components and methods for implementing the system. The final deliverable will be a white paper on the design of the surrogate. The Phase I effort will include prototype plans to be developed under Phase II.

PHASE II: Using the results from Phase I, develop and demonstrate a prototype dual mode surrogate seeker, including writing the required software algorithms to bring information of the two sensors together in a viable track. Phase II will require testing of the system during field test trials to allow the identification of shortfalls, and areas for improvement. A final demonstration of the prototype system will be done at an open test range with aircraft.

Work in Phase II may become classified. Please see note in Description paragraph.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Further refine the system design and algorithms, and incorporate additional sensors operating across the EM spectrum. Work with the Navy to transition the technology into a weapon system.

Passive RF is a developing technique for tracking aircraft without the requirement of an RF emitter. This technology is applicable in both the civilian and military aerospace industry. For the civilian, passive RF offers a relatively low-cost method of air traffic awareness, while on the military side it is of particular interest in tracking targets covertly, with the ability to identify a platform with its capabilities. With respect to developed algorithms, the fusion of sensor data and applications in machine learning have the promise of increasing accuracy in self-driving vehicles, manufacturing processes, and improve decision-making processes.


  1. Chandra, D. V. (1990, October). Multisensor seeker for medium-range air-to-air missiles. In Sensor fusion III (Vol. 1306, pp. 180-186). International Society for Optics and Photonics.
  2. Dillon, J. E., Flanagan, J. A., Schildkraut, E. R., & Silk, J. K. (1990, September). Dual-mode (IR/RF) hardware-in-the-loop simulation facility. In Characterization, propagation, and simulation of infrared scenes (Vol. 1311, pp. 382-397). International Society for Optics and Photonics.
  3. Amundson, P. H. (1996, May). One aspect of multispectral scene projection (MSSG): radar-infrared scene combination for use in hardware-in-the-loop simulation test facilities. In Technologies for Synthetic Environments: Hardware-in-the-Loop Testing (Vol. 2741, pp. 347-353). International Society for Optics and Photonics.
  4. Yongchang, L. (1996). Analysis of IR/mmW Combined Seekers. National Air Intelligence Center Wright-Patterson AFB OH.
  5. Hao, K., Li, Z., Wang, X., Yang, S., Wang, Y., Xu, C., Zhou, L., & Gao, Y. (2019). Design of dual-band wide-angle RF/IR beam combiner based on impedance matching. IET Microwaves, Antennas & Propagation, 14(1), 7-14.

KEYWORDS: Radio Frequency; Infrared; Tracking Algorithm; Dual-Mode Seeker; Passive Tracking; Multi-sensor tracking


The Navy Topic above is an "unofficial" copy from the Navy Topics in the DoD 23.2 SBIR BAA. Please see the official DoD Topic website at for any updates.

The DoD issued its Navy 23.2 SBIR Topics pre-release on April 19, 2023 which opens to receive proposals on May 17, 2023, and closes June 14, 2023 (12:00pm ET).

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